Let voters decide on L&J tax increase | In our opinion

Island County Board Commissioners will soon consider whether to follow a Law and Justice Council recommendation to put a $2.6-million law-and-justice measure on the ballot.

The commissioners should allow voters to decide.

But, it will be up to the Law and Justice Council — the group recommending the ballot measure — to make the case to voters.

Island County Sheriff Mark Brown and Prosecutor Greg Banks have done a great job of explaining the impacts that budget cuts had on their departments over the years.

Some have accused them of bellyaching, but each has put forth a compelling case.  For example, the sheriff’s office is tied with Thurston County for being the lowest-staffed in the state on a per capita basis.

Brown isn’t able to provide two-deputy coverage, 24 hours a day in each of the three precincts.

That in itself, Brown said, is risky for deputies and citizens.

Few people, and none of the county commissioners, question that there is a need. The question is how to find the money. Brown, Banks and other law-and-justice officials have spelled out exactly how they would spend the $2.6 million in additional tax dollars.

Brown said he will hire 16 patrols deputies, three detectives and three corrections deputies over the course of a few years.

The specifics should satisfy Commissioner Helen Price Johnson, who said she is cautious about the ballot measure after the failure of Prop. 1.

The problem, she said, was that the county wasn’t clear about exactly how the money would have been spent.

“If you’re asking them to reach into their wallets, they need to know what services will be provided,” Price-Johnson said. We couldn’t agree more.

Commissioners haven’t approved the proposed measure, but will be considering it in the coming weeks. They need to fine-tune how to present a measure to residents and let the voters decide how to move forward.

If the measure is placed on the ballot, it will be up to the Law and Justice Council and law-and-justice officials to continue to press their message and educate the public about the very real needs.

Based on the facts and circumstances, we trust voters to decide what costs they are willing to cover through higher taxes.

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